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Too scared to make a change

I have lots of things I want to do in my life, I have lots of goals. I want to speak Polish, fluently. I want to organise my finances. I want to swim faster. Some goals I am actively working towards. Some are on the back burner. These goals have been on my list for about 5 years (at least)
Unsurprisingly, I haven’t achieved them all yet. I have stopped and started on some. I have tried and failed.

However, to achieve these big goals I have to do two things.

  1. Accept failure.
  2. Keep taking small steps.

Accepting failure is a critical part of reaching goals, because it will never be smooth sailing. There will always be setbacks and fails. If it was easy, I would have achieved it years ago and it wouldn’t be a goal, right? Accepting failures means acknowledging that icky feeling that I have let myself down. I skipped a day at the pool. That I didn’t turn up to my Polish class.
Yep. Breaking news people, I am not perfect. Just like the rest of the planet. So why do I beat myself up when I fail? When I skip a day. Sometimes the beat-up is so bad, I give up on the goal. And that’s not good.

Keep taking small steps. It isn’t just about giant leaps and bounds. Improving my swim time is going to come from consistently swimming several times a week, for months and years. It isn’t going to come from a marathon 12-hour session in the pool.
Practice makes perfect. Or as Tony Robbins says, perfect practice makes perfect. Keep turning up. Over and over. Every day.

I like American writer and speaker and former champion athlete, James Clear’s perspective on taking small steps. In his book, Atomic Habits, he suggests that taking the smallest action confirms the type of person you want to be. We rarely think about change this way because everyone is consumed by the end goal. But one push-up is better than not exercising at all. One minute of guitar practice is better than none. One minute of reading is better than never picking up a book. It’s better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.

Here are my questions for you.

  • What type of person do you want to be?
  • What are the small actions that you could take today to reinforce the identity you want to build?
  • Will you forgive yourself for failure a (when you undoubtedly stuff up in some way) and start again?

Martha Beck calls these small acts turtle steps. “Even on a bad day, when you contemplate your turtle steps, your immediate, genuine gut reaction should be ‘Oh yeah, sure I can do that’, she explains. “Most people are unwillingly to take turtle steps, for the odd reason that they’re too small.”
I would encourage you take as much action as you are able. That small step is enough because it keeps you in the game. All we need to do sometimes is to take the small steps to keep us on target to achieve that big goal and become the type of person we want to be.


I am a coach, mother and wife, living in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. I grew up in South London, in an immigrant family in the suburbs. But I had good fortune with my parents: Dad was born in Calcutta, India, and my Mum came from communist Poland. In the 1970s I got to leave Croydon, and travel with my family through India, and behind the Iron Curtain. I saw parts of the world that my classmates could not comprehend. It sparked my wanderlust and gave me a great respect for how big and diverse our world is. And I gained an ability to move between different cultures, assimilating into them.

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